SAIT sends its finest to WorldSkills São Paulo 2015
Team Canada put forward a strong performance at WorldSkills 2015, earning five medals and 10 medallions for excellence.
Dedication to their trades. Extraordinary maturity. A passion to inspire others.
These are just some of the exemplary qualities displayed by the four SAIT competitors who earned the right to represent Canada at WorldSkills Sao Paulo 2015 in Brazil this August.
Justin Dambitis, Brandon Liang, Rylan Dekok and Peter Lauser are among the 29-member WorldSkills Team Canada — representing our nation's top youth talents in skilled trades and technologies.
Shawna Bourke, Director of Communications and Programming with Skills Canada Alberta, says making the national team is no small feat for the competitors. All entrants must be under 23 years old — unless they are competing in one of the fours skills with an age limit of 25 — so WorldSkills represents young people who are already industry leaders.
"Our Team Canada 2015 members have each participated in Skills Canada Alberta programs for years before reaching the pinnacle of excellence as members of the national team. Many began their journey at one of the 95 regional Skills Canada competitions we host each year, in nine regions across the province," says Bourke.
"They represent a cultural shift that is happening at the high school and post-secondary levels to reposition the trades as not only in-demand professions but also requiring high levels of capabilities as leaders and problem-solvers, pursuing excellence in their crafts. "
Meet the SAIT WorldSkills superstars
The SAIT competitors were among the 500-plus young Canadians tested at the 2014 Skills Canada National Competition in Toronto. The 31 highest-ranking medalists from that competition then attended the WorldSkills Canadian Trials earlier this year to qualify for Team Canada.
Justin Dambitis - auto body repair
The crew at Domestic Import Autobody in Calgary will be keenly following the WorldSkills action as one of their own — Justin Dambitis — is representing Canada in Autobody Repair.
"I really appreciate the support from my boss as well as my co-workers. They are all supportive of my training and going to WorldSkills," says Dambitis.
Dambitis estimates he devotes about 20 hours a week to training in the run-up to WorldSkills. His trainer is SAIT instructor Derek Topolnisky, and Dambitis is also grateful for the support from others in SAIT's School of Transportation.
"I try to train every day little by little. I'll do things I've been told to improve upon."
With a silver medal at the Alberta Skills event in 2013, followed up by gold at both the provincial and national levels last year, Dambitis is used to handling the pressure of competition.
"It's a little stressful to be under the microscope when I'm doing my projects but I have learned to block them all out and just focus on my work and doing the best I can," Dambitis says. "We've also taken classes to learn how to deal with the stress."
Dambitis, age 21, already holds journeyman certification in his trade and is committed to staying active in the Skills organizations. He has joined the Provincial Technical Committee, the body that sets the provincial competition parameters, and hopes to one day fill a role as trainer or expert.
Rylan Dekok - cabinetmaking
Rylan Dekok got his start in the woodworking craft behind the business end of a broom at age 13 with Premiere Woodworking in Picture Butte. Now 21 and a journeyman cabinetmaker at the same business, he's often in charge of planning projects and supervising crews on residential jobs.
Dekok claimed the gold medal at the provincial Skills in 2013 to earn a berth at nationals. Last year he scored gold at both levels. These days he's perfecting his skills several evenings a week and on Saturdays. He's also putting on a lot of kilometres between Picture Butte in southeastern Alberta and SAIT where he works with instructors Harold Bergmann (trainer) and Mick McGowan (expert) in preparation for WorldSkills.
"I go to SAIT every couple of weeks, and I'll be doing three full runs there over a two-week period prior to WorldSkills to know the project — a hall table — inside out," Dekok says.
As for the pressure of competition with judges and crowds of spectators, Dekok is mostly unfazed.
"Mental strain doesn't bother me a lot. Knowing I'm going to complete the project on time and breaking it down into small parts, that really helps."
Dekok credits his employer for granting him time off to train. And he'll carry with pride the tool chest — emblazoned with the Canadian flag — that was a gift from the company.
Looking beyond WorldSkills, Dekok hopes to encourage other young tradespeople through the Skills network.
"It'd be nice to pay back somehow. There are lots of people putting in volunteer hours to help me."
Peter Lauser - industrial mechanics millwright (in header photo)
Peter Lauser, Team Canada's contender in Industrial Mechanics Millwright, has two years experience under his belt at both provincial and national Skills events. He won the gold hardware at the 2013 and 2014 Alberta competitions and silver at last year's national meet.
Lauser has set himself a rigorous training schedule in preparation for Sao Paulo.
"I have the documents for the project and I practice manufacturing the parts over and over. I'm constantly trying to reduce the time it takes and improve the quality of workmanship. Since I work seven days in camp in northern Alberta and then have seven days off, during the week off I'll be at SAIT on average about 20 hours a week training."
This spring, during the eight weeks Lauser was at SAIT completing his third period of apprenticeship, he squeezed in 13 hours of training each week on top of classes.
Lauser's trainer, SAIT instructor Brian Vintinner, isn't the only one excited about his protege's prospects at WorldSkills.
"The instructors at SAIT have been very supportive and encouraging, even to the point where they have come in on their own time to help me train and prepare," Lauser says.
Lauser's employer, FT Services of Calgary, is equally on board, granting whatever time off he needs for training and competition.
Once WorldSkills is behind him, Lauser hopes to spread the word about Skills opportunities.
"I'd like to do speaking at schools for Skills, to try and get more youth informed about all the opportunities available in the skilled trades world - to let them know you can be successful in life without going to university."
Brandon Liang - automobile technology
At just 19, Brandon Liang is already a four-time gold medalist in Skills competitions — and all accomplished while still attending high school in Camrose. After earning top place in Automobile Technology at the Lakeland regional event in 2013, he scored a triple sweep in 2014, taking gold at the regional, provincial and national events.
Liang completed his second year of apprenticeship this spring and plans to be back at SAIT for his third year in the Ford ASSET program in 2017. Through his employer, Lamb Ford of Camrose, Liang has attended numerous industry-related courses.
"They've also provided me with lots of support at work and accommodated me to work around all the training required for Skills competitions," says Liang.
He's currently training at least twice a week in the lead-up to WorldSkills and has also attended manufacturer-specific training since his last period at SAIT.
Liang's trainer, Darcy Wallace, is the Ford ASSET instructor at SAIT. Liang says the whole auto service instructional team at SAIT has been supportive.
"Any help I needed or questions I had, they've been there."
With four competition wins under his belt, Liang keeps his calm in the judging arena.
"I don't find it too bad with the judges and spectators around. The first few minutes I am a little nervous and then once I get focused I don't notice them much."
Liang is keen to build awareness of the Skills movement.
"I'll be involved with Skills Canada in some way or another when this is over," he says.
Ken Howe - plumbing
SAIT will also be cheering on Ken Howe. The Plumber Apprentice began his education at SAIT and competed in Provincial Skills Canada with a SAIT trainer. He's completing his final year of education at NAIT, and will take the WorldSkills stage with training from a NAIT expert.
SAIT's Skills track record
SAIT has a 20-year history of WorldSkills involvement and more than 70 staff and faculty volunteer their expertise at regional, provincial, national and WorldSkills competitions.
Four SAIT students competed at WorldSkills 2013 in Germany, three at the 2011 event in England, and seven when Calgary hosted the competition in 2009. Menno Vanderlist, representing SAIT and Canada, took the silver medal in Information Technology and Network Support at WorldSkills Finland 2005.
Competitors receive financial support from Skills Canada for competition training, tools and travel. Skills Canada Alberta, the provincial organization, also supports competitors through WorldSkills Legacy Scholarships of $9000 each. Each competitor has a trainer who works closely with the contender to perfect techniques, and an expert who sets the training plan.
Catch the excitement!
View the Team Canada 2015 booklet and member profiles. Follow WorldSkills Team Canada 2015 on Twitter with #WSTC2015.
July 14, 2015